Telstra's New Wi-Fi Network: Everything You Need To Know

Two years after closing off its previous Wi-Fi service, Telstra is once again going to start running Wi-Fi hotspots -- and it wants to use your home ADSL connection as part of it. How will that work and what will it mean for customers?

First things first: while Telstra has announced this today, it isn't going to actually happen until 2015. Given that other changes might happen before that date (most notably with the NBN), take it all with a grain of salt -- especially as we don't yet have prices for everything.

So these are the basic elements of the plan, which is based on technology developed by Spanish telco Fon:

  • New routers -- branded as Telstra Gateway Max and on sale now for $210 -- will be deployed which allow you to share some of your existing bandwidth with others, effectively turning you into an individual hotspot which is part of the Telstra network. The routers will support HFC, ADSL and NBN, and CEO David Thodey said it could be upgraded to use 4G as well in the future. The network will run as 802.11ac. Some existing models will be able to made sharing-compatible via a firmware upgrade (Telstra suggests 500,000 existing models will be able to do this).
  • Telstra will build 8000 new hotspots in cafes, community centres and other locations. It hopes the combination of these with individuals will create 2 million hotspots across the country.
  • The scheme will also offer access to 12 million Fon hotspots overseas. Thodey said this would also be at no extra charge, but the announcement release suggests merely that sign-in will be easier. This detail probably won't be clear until domestic pricing is announced.

So why would you offer up part of your bandwidth? That's what will grant you access to other hotspots. In effect, you'll be able to use your own broadband allowance even when you're not at home. (Telstra says mobile customers will eventually be able to use their allowance, but initially it's only for broadband customers.) It's an opt-in scheme -- you can stay entirely locked off -- but its success will depend on Telstra persuading its customers to open up their networks.

One obvious concern there is security. Telstra says the public access side will have "normal Wi-Fi security", though it didn't provide details. Another issue is that you might not want your own bandwidth reduced. "Part of the smarts of the modem is that it allocates you your service and then manages people coming in from the community," Thodey said at the launch.

Non-Telstra customers will also be able to purchase a day pass to use the service, though once again prices haven't been announced beyond saying it will be "small".

Like the sound of this? Worried about the security risks? Figure you're still better off with a 4G hotspot or a tethered phone? Share your thoughts in the comments.


    1. Setup Linux box as wifi router with certificate substitution and network sniffing
    2. Rename wifi network to appear as a Telstra Hotspot
    3. Wait for hapless Telstra broadband customers to connect
    4. Plunder!

    Can't see how Telstra can stop the above from occuring unless they build an app to complete verification of hotspots.

      And yes, I know anyone could do this today (and it does happen), but when people expect to easily come across wifi hotspots all over the country in huge numbers, it becomes alot easier (and the pool of potential victimes becomes much, much larger).

    So do people suck up my data cap and I in turn need to use up someone elses to make up for mine?

    So will the hotspot data cap be counted separately to my data?

      It sounds like that the wifi is login based and linked to your home ADSL login details. So when you login to the hotspot it comes off your homes internet allowance.
      And when someone uses your router as a hotspot, it doesn't count to your usage, but theirs (through the magic of telstra's authentication servers)

      You will use your own data allowance that is tied to your Bigpond account. This is in effect no different to what happens now, for a while I shared internet with a friend as their account was in disarray, so long as they have your log in account they have your allowance.

    Sounds like what iiNet had (has?) going with Tomizone.

    I think Telstra will need to do a fair bit of work before people would plonk down $200 (ie some kind of coverage guarantee, discount on your broadband bill). I would also expect that any data used by guests is not counted against your quota, and that guests do not have priority of anything on the main network).

    I would think you would need a way to be sure you are connected to the service and not someones private network masquerading and doing man in the middle style attacks, but im not sure thats really possible so you are really trusting strangers with whatever data you send over it, unless you use a VPN to go through the router.

    So just port 80 stuff? Email Ports? Often blocked, sure workarounds possible. What about the pending 3 strikes rule? Wasnt me must have been someone who roamed onto my hotspot.

    Sounds just like what BT do in the UK. Every BT Broadband wifi router has a secondary "BT with FON" network that cannot be disabled. BT customers can login with their email address and password and access the wifi for free. However, it doesn't come off of their home usage allowance, it's a free service for customers.

    Telstra needs to make these wifi hotspots completely free for broadband/mobile customers and not take it off their broadband/mobile usage.

    Last edited 20/05/14 2:34 pm

    If it can be made to be secure, I think it's a pretty cool idea. They seemed to do something like this in Norway - all the public cafe and hotel hotspots had the option of logging in with your ISP provided username and password, to get full internet access & bandwidth. This effectively means your broadband monthly cost gave you internet access almost everywhere you went in the city, and even on trains.

    Sooo Telstra is taking the easy way out for the poor mobile internet coverage / packed towers in our towns and cities by using other peoples wifi as an alternative. Damn you NBN where are you!

    An issue that will crop up with Telstra's new "social hotspot" arrangement and similar systems like Fon's is when others abuse your service such as downloading illegal material or using it to post / publish offensive content such as "dumping" a whole lot of spam. This could also extend to people using one of these systems to drain someone else's bandwidth. Who could be held responsible - the Telstra broadband subscriber who owns the service or the person committing the actual act?

    Ziggo here in holland have this system, but they sell a 60mbit connection on a 70mbit line and reserve the extra for the free hotspot. You can disable it on the free router they provide, but means you also lose access to the hotspots. Only problem is that it does take a while to connect so if you are near a few it can just end up being a pain.

    Soooo what is the difference between the Telstra gateway for Telstar air and my Billion 8800AXL?? Would I need to buy their Gateway??

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